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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
July 6, 2012/ 16 Tamuz, 5772
In search of Mr. Ripe
Some people spend a lifetime searching for happiness. Some search
for wealth and others for fame. Me? I'm searching for one good cantaloupe.
All I want is a cantaloupe that tastes as good on the inside
as it looks on the outside. Is that asking too much?
I should have given up years ago, but I can't. Finding a decent
cantaloupe has become an obsession.
I've spent a fortune on bad cantaloupe. I don't blame the bad
economy for our financial state, I blame bad melons.
I have a knack for picking cantaloupe that fall into one of three
taste categories: ones that taste like toothpaste with baking soda,
ones that taste like paper and ones that are a high-grade orange
Each and every one is a disappointment, a bad experience. Each
and every time I promise to give up the hunt, to let it go, to cut
my losses and walk away. Be happy with apples, I tell myself. Peel
a banana, I say to myself. Yet, there I am loitering in produce
again. Will this finally be the good batch, or is Larry the produce
guy about to pull another fast one?
I've seen shoppers pop grapes into their mouths to see if they're
any good, but it's not like you can take a bite out of a cantaloupe.
You'd have a mouthful of rind, juice smeared on your face and melon
pulp running down your front. "No, this isn't quite as ripe as I
hoped it would be."
And, yes, I know how to look for a good melon. Look for one that
is more yellow than green. Look for one that is spongy on the end
when you press it. I watched a woman so thoroughly examine a cantaloupe
the other day that if she'd been wearing a white coat and a stethoscope
she could have billed the melon for a physical.
"Looks like you found a good one," I said.
She put in her cart and said, "Who knows. It could be awful."
I stalk cantaloupe at produce stands as well. Last year a man
guaranteed me that the melon I paid an outrageous price for would
be the greatest melon of the summer. He even said to come back if
it wasn't. It was a lousy melon; it tasted like soap. I went back
but he was busy selling a woman the Brooklyn Bridge.
My brother-in-law brought a fabulous watermelon to a family gathering
"Great melon," the crowd exclaimed.
"You never know," he said. He bought it at a Polish market in
Chicago where a fellow shopper volunteered that she knew how to
tell a good melon because she was from Mississippi.
Why do we always believe Southerners know things the rest of
us don't? They grow rocky ford melons in Colorado, but we'd never
gush that a woman from Denver revealed the secret to finding good
melons. It doesn't have the same mystique.
The woman said everybody in Mississippi thumps a watermelon to
see if it sounds hollow. My brother-in-law asked the woman if that
was really how she could tell a watermelon was ripe.
She said she didn't really know; she never buys them.
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© 2012, Lori Borgman
Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Ask Doctor K